Tips for Self-Care
Author: Judy Tatelbaum
Excerpted from: You Don’t Have to Suffer
In the early months of grieving, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and socially. Here are some easy ways to incorporate self-care into these difficult days.
A healthy, well-balanced diet of proteins, vegetables, fruit, grains, and a minimum of fats and sugars is important. We can educate ourselves on what comprises a healthy diet, information that is available from our physician, the American Heart Association, or other health groups. It is useful to know that too much sugar depletes us and to discover which foods energize us.
Regular exercise like walking, running, swimming, bicycling, tennis, racquetball, and so on is recommended at least three times a week. If you are under stress, daily exercise anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours can increase energy and a sense of well being. This can make a particular difference after a loss, trauma, or stress.
In contrast to activity, we may also need rest. Those of us who tend to drive ourselves particularly hard may recover best with rest periods, lying down and taking it easy sometime during the day. Cat naps, reading breaks, or closing our eyes for fifteen minutes can be rejuvenating. Both rest and sleep can regenerate us.
This is another form of rest or rejuvenation. Taking twenty minutes to go inward one to three times a day can be very healing. There are many techniques and books on meditation. One simple form of meditating is to sit with eyes closed, listening to classical music.
The support of a friend, colleague, therapist, counselor, teacher, minister, or rabbi can be valuable nourishment. We benefit when we can talk intimately, clear up feelings and reactions, be understood or have a witness to our experience, and be encouraged to move forward. Family may worry too much, get involved in our problems, or be unavailable, so someone outside our regular life can be very supportive in regaining balance.
Activities that nurture our bodies, like massages, hot baths, sun baths, or whatever personally appeals to us, are particularly supportive. This kind of nourishment is not related to eating and food. Many of us habitually deny our needs, so we may have to dig deeply to discover what would nourish us.
At times it may be beneficial to take time to be alone to do nothing, look at the scenery, read, daydream, watch television, and rest. How much time alone each of us needs may vary. Taking time for oneself can be a way for spirituality and creativity to emerge during or after the time spent alone.
This means time away from the usual routine, like vacations or days away from home. If vacations are not feasible, consider a drive or walk in the country or any environment that is different from your usual one.
Playing one hour a day can be regenerating. Many of us have lost the idea of play while growing into adulthood. We may need to look again at what play would involve for us now. Games, sports, shopping, or crossword puzzles are a few examples of what we might enjoy.
Exercise Responsibility For Your Well-Being
After reading the above steps regarding self-care, make a list of specific steps that would be beneficial for you. What relaxes you? What delights you? What engages you? What is fun for you? Write all these answers down for further use and carry them in your daily calendar or post them on your mirror or refrigerator.
By Judy Tatelbaum, LCSW: Judy Tatelbaum, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who specializes in grief and author of the books, The Courage to Grieve and You Don’t Have to Suffer. Other grief related articles are on her website: www.judytatelbaum.com. She can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org